Pakistan to establish anti-cyberterrorism agency

Updated 06 May 2018

Pakistan to establish anti-cyberterrorism agency

  • Agency aims to counter online presence of militants, extremists.
  • Groups such as Daesh are recruiting Pakistanis online, Dad said.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government has decided to establish the National Cyber Terrorism Security Investigation Agency to counter terrorists and militants on online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Islamabad has allocated 100 million Pakistani rupees ($865,000) to the Interior Ministry’s annual budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 to establish the agency.

“We’ve eliminated the militant presence from our tribal territories by launching several military operations,” Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Talpur, deputy director at the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), told Arab News on Sunday.

“Now there’s a need to counter the online presence of militants involved in recruiting and brainwashing our youth.”

NACTA is working on the preparation and dissemination of counter-narratives on online platforms, he said.

The government has allocated 24 million rupees to establish the Cyber Patrolling Unit to track down militants guilty of hate speech, extremist activities and recruitment.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director Mohammed Shoaib said he is unsure if the government wants to merge the FIA’s cybercrime wing with the National Cyber Terrorism Security Investigation Agency. 

“I think all cybercrime-related institutions and departments should work under a single authority or agency to improve their work,” he told Arab News.

Nighat Dad, director of the Digital Rights Foundation and a cybersecurity expert, said the government’s focus and priorities regarding counterterrorism and extremism on social media are not well defined.

The police, the FIA and NACTA are separately empowered under different laws to act against terrorists and extremists, but there is no synergy between them to implement the laws effectively, she added.

“Our departments lack expertise to counter extremist content online,” she said. “There is a need to improve coordination with corporations like Facebook and Twitter to take down extremist and hate content.”

Groups such as Daesh are recruiting Pakistanis online, Dad added. Regarding the government’s blocking of the messaging service Telegram, she said: “There is a thin line between national security and freedom of expression, so the authorities must recognize this while going after militants and terrorists.”

The government should bring all relevant stakeholders under a single platform to effectively implement measures against extremists and militants, without compromising freedom of expression, Dad added.

“It will definitely take time to purge our online spaces, and the issue cannot be addressed in just a few days or months by setting up new institutions and agencies,” she said.

14 dead as twin blasts rock historic Afghan city Bamiyan

Updated 55 min 32 sec ago

14 dead as twin blasts rock historic Afghan city Bamiyan

  • Blast brings end to years of calm in the isolated town — famous for ancient Buddhist heritage
  • Violence has surged in recent months in Afghanistan despite peace talks

KABUL: At least 14 people were killed in central Afghanistan on Tuesday when two blasts ripped through the historic city of Bamiyan, home to many members of the mainly Shiite Hazara ethnic minority, officials said.
The carnage brought to an end years of calm in the isolated town — famous for its ancient Buddhist heritage — that has avoided the sort of large-scale attacks commonplace elsewhere in the war-torn country.
The twin bombing marked the latest big attack in Afghanistan, where violence has surged in recent months even as Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are meeting for peace talks in the Qatari capital Doha.
“Fourteen people have been killed and 45 more wounded in two (bomb) explosions,” Bamiyan police chief Zabardast Safi told AFP, adding that a traffic policeman was among those killed.
The explosives were placed in two separate locations, Bamiyan police spokesman Reza Yosufi said, adding that two suspects had been arrested.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed the toll.
“We are investigating the deadly explosions in Bamiyan,” he said.
“This is an unforgivable crime.”
No group immediately claimed the blasts, and the Taliban denied involvement.
The explosions occurred in front of a market and near a hospital in Bamiyan, locals resident Anwar Saadatyar told AFP.
“When I reached the market... there was still blood and body parts everywhere. The blast occurred when people were busy shopping,” he said in a phone interview.
At the second site of the blast near the hospital, most of the casualties were university students, Saadatyar said.
“I visited the hospital later and saw people crying for their relatives who were killed or wounded in the explosions,” he said.
“There were so many wounded people that doctors didn’t know who to treat first. I will never forget that scene.”
Bamiyan is perhaps best known for the giant Buddha statues that once were carved into walls outside the city.
In 2001, the Taliban drew international revulsion when they blew up the centuries-old figures as they went on a rampage against Afghanistan’s rich pre-Islamic cultural heritage.
With its snowy backdrop and frequent blue skies, Bamiyan is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs keen to explore a network of ancient caves housing temples, monasteries and Buddhist paintings.
The province is home mainly to the Hazara community, which over the years has been targeted by Sunni extremists such as the Daesh group and the Taliban in the 1990s.
In cities such as Kabul, Hazaras have seen repeated attacks in their neighborhoods, including a brutal daylight assault in the capital in May on a hospital maternity ward that left several mothers dead.
In the past six months the Taliban have carried out 53 suicide attacks and detonated 1,250 explosive devices that have left 1,210 civilians dead and 2,500 wounded, the interior ministry said last week.